California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is refusing to publicly acknowledge whether his state is taking part in a high-profile investigation into ExxonMobil’s climate record.
Becerra, a Democrat who became the state’s lead AG in 2016, is taking a page out of the playbook of his predecessor, now-Sen. Kamala Harris: He will not say if California is seriously considering leaping headlong into an Exxon probe.
“Understand that the last thing we want is to let people know what we’re doing,” Becerra told an audience at a town hall meeting July 13. He was referring to a concerted effort to get California on board the more than yearlong campaign. It is the first time that Baecerra has commented about the investigation.
“We don’t announce our investigations. I am very aware of the issue involving Exxon,” he added. Becerra has not responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for an explanation for his position on the matter, especially as his New York counterpart continues the highly publicized pursuit.
New York AG Eric Schneiderman’s case against Exxon was initially based on claims the oil company downplayed for decades the severity of global warming to the public and investors.
Much of Schneiderman’s probe was based on reports from liberal-leaning media outlets InsideClimate News and Columbia University, both of which claim Exxon has known the risks of global warming for decades but kept such knowledge under wraps. The Los Angeles Times was also involved in the reports – the paper’s editorial board has joined a chorus of activists urging the California AG’s office to join the probe.
Federal regulators have criticized Susanne Rust, one of the lead researchers responsible for Columbia’s Exxon reports, in the past for allowing her environmental activism to dictate her research on the oil company. She has been responsible in recent years for research generating fear about other issues.
Recent stumbles and missteps have caused the crusading Democrat to shift the focus of his probe.
His most recent change, which focused on documents he believes shows the company used internal numbers to dupe the public, prompted the Washington Post to report June 5 that the, “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has gotten very far away from where he started in his office’s investigation into ExxonMobil.”
Exxon, for its part, has described Schneiderman’s investigation as a type of conspiracy theory drummed up for the purposes of gaining media exposure for future political gains. The probe is now merely speculation into Exxon’s financial dealings.
“From the outset of this investigation, it has been clear that the Attorney General is working backwards from an assumption of ExxonMobil’s guilt, searching in vain for some theory to support his prejudgment,” Exxon officials wrote in a press statement responding to the New York AG’s subpoena requests in June.
“These subpoenas are just the latest gambit in the Attorney General’s pursuit of favorable press and harassment of ExxonMobil,” they added. “They should be quashed.”
Becerra’s decision to stay mum is in keeping with Harris’s repeated refusals to come clean about where California stands on the probe. Harris, a Democrat who left office to run for Senate in 20126, has frequently responded with “no comment” whenever reporters asked her about any upcoming Exxon probes.
Her non-committal has allowed lawmakers and various elements within the environmental movement to cast her as a supporter of Schneiderman’s pursuit. Lawmakers wrote in an LA Time’s editorial earlier this year that they want Bacerra to take up Harris’ position.
“Under the leadership of then-Attorney General Kamala Harris, the State of California began an investigation into whether leading oil companies, in particular ExxonMobil and its predecessor companies, internally acknowledged the science of climate change decades ago yet covered up studies and worked to mislead the public about climate change’s dangers,” they wrote.
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